3 Ingredients for Accomplishing Any Ridiculous Goal

I am conflicted about ridiculous goals. I believe in them, and I admire people who set them, but I admit to erring on the side of achievable goals. They make me feel better, especially when I cross them off my list. But ridiculous goals are definitely where the money is, where the excitement is, where the fun is.

I have some experience with ridiculous goals. How else could I have transitioned from Certified Public Accountant to best-selling author? (New York Times, I’ll get you yet.) How else could I lead a hyper-talented editorial team to create the #1 country music and lifestyle media property in the whole wide world? How else could I be the primary laundry caretaker for two teenagers, a husband, and a dog?

Ridiculous goals. That’s how.

Ridiculous or practical, the mechanics of accomplishing any goal are the same. And they are not complicated. If you can follow a recipe, you can achieve your goals. You would have to be living under a rock for the last 30 years to have missed the over-abundance of literature (do we call it literature?) on the subject of setting and achieving goals. It’s simple: Set a date, break big dreams into small steps, take action, measure, repeat.

It’s the take action part that most people miss, but that’s another topic for another day.

But before you make the list (or spreadsheet), before you have dates in the calendar, you need some basic ingredients. There are only three: Vision, Skills, and Network.

Those working together will get absolutely anything done.

Vision

This one is tricky, and there are two pieces. First, what do you really want? What is the end goal? Second, and I think more important, is the vision we have of ourselves. Are you the person who will accomplish this particular big thing? Are you the person who will rise above the challenges and circumstances? Are you the person who will persevere when the shit gets tough?

Skills

Let’s assume you know what you want and you’ve convinced yourself you’re the one to do it. Despite your fancy spreadsheets (or humble lists), your committed intention, and your dutiful action, if you do not possess the skills to accomplish your goal, you won’t get very far. Invest in your skills, Invest in understanding what skills are require to get a particular thing done, and then invest in acquiring them. Whether or not you achieve your goal, the skills you build in the process are yours to keep. Warren Buffet famously counsels that this is the best investment anyone can make:

Generally speaking, investing in yourself is the best thing you can do. Anything that improves your own talents; nobody can tax it or take it away from you. They can run up huge deficits and the dollar can become worth far less. You can have all kinds of things happen. But if you’ve got talent yourself, and you’ve maximized your talent, you’ve got a tremendous asset that can return ten-fold.

 

Network

Never underestimate the power of groups, and never give up just because you don’t have the right network, YET. Some of us are born into certain networks, or we acquire them by school, work, or social association. Most of us have to artfully assemble the right people to help us reach our goals.

This year I encouraged my daughter to participate in local year-long fundraising program for a national charity. I wanted her to participate in the program so she would learn to combine the three key ingredients: Vision, Skills, and Network.

I wanted her to see herself as the kind of person who commits and follows through, who steps out into a challenge, an uncomfortable task, an unknown situation, with grace and confidence.

I wanted her to develop the planning and scheduling skills she would need to complete the programs. But mostly, I wanted her to learn how to ask for money, because as I see it, that’s an incredibly valuable skill.

I wanted my daughter to nurture a network with the other girls from different schools and towns.

I’m pretty sure she’s just in it for the dress she will wear to the ball at the end.

That’s okay. A girl’s got to have a goal.


I’d love to visit your group!

Lela Davidson speaking

Need a fun program for the coming year? Invite me to speak! I love to speak to groups of women and will leave your members feeling appreciated and inspired. I have several programs available or I can tailor one to fit your specific needs.

Do You Have a Super Hero?

Here is the mug a dear friend gave me a few years ago. This friend took a chance on my writing when she started her magazine. We have since started and run a successful business together. Over coffee and slide decks, we dream of future ventures. When she gave me the mug, a Christmas gift I think, she said, “You are a Wonder Woman to me, Lela.”

super hero

Every time I use this mug I remember those words and they encourage me.

I know, it’s just a mug. But I’m a mug person. I still have the mug I received from my very first real(ish) job. My Bellingham National Bank mug is 25 years old. I haven’t managed to break it yet. That one reminds me of the super powers it took to overcome my circumstances at the time (unhealthy relationship, ill-advised “break” from college, questionable 1990s fashion choices, etc.), and make the decisions I needed to make in order to own my own life. And the friends I made at that job. The mug reminds me of them too.

But back to Wonder Woman, because this post is about super heroes. I want to identify with a super hero, so that in my darker moments I’ll have one more tool to make me feel that ‘I can do this thing!’ energy we all need sometimes to power through. Wonder Woman is worthy, and what a sweet compliment from my friend. But I’m not so sure Wonder Woman is the one for me. Just minutes ago she was covered in crusted chocolate, the result of an unfortunate microwave hot cocoa incident. Seems like she would know better, or do better, or jet off in her invisible plane to a land where cocoa never runneth over. Not me.

I have plenty of real life heroes, women (and men) I know who accomplish amazing things or exhibit the qualities I wish I possessed. It’s important to have these people to look up to, but these real life heroes are not super heroes. They are role models. No matter how lovely, they are still human. They still fail. While they deserve our admiration, we can’t hold real people to super standards.

But a superhero, she can take it.

Business coach Erika Lyremark talks about creating “compact super heroes,” different personalities you can fit in your pocket. Each with unique super powers to get you through any situation. I like that idea, too. You create the heroes you need for a given situation. Still, I want the one. My special super girl.

What I don’t want is the busty, half-naked comic book femme fatale, leaping across rooftops and fighting crime. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but she doesn’t feel like me. Check out Wonder Woman. She is fierce. She is an Amazon.

I am an awkward, say-the-wrong-thing, tiny girl. I like to do yoga and read personal essays. My super power is spreadsheets, which is just not very dramatic, or literary, or conducive to cool costumes. A few months ago I got really excited about a cleaning cloth. Not my best moment. But on this side of 45, I can own all that. And thank goodness, right? Because I must now qualify as middle-aged despite my determination to live to 100. And ladies of a certain age, while we don’t have to grow up (oh, but, never!) we do have to give something back. We do have to be comfortable in our own un-super skin.

So I’m thinking Dorothy Gale. You know, the girl who travelled all the way to Oz to find out her powers were inside her all the time. And do not even try to tell me she is not a super hero. She leads a motley crew through an unknown land, and helps each of them find what they desperately desire. She doesn’t put up with any crap from flying monkeys or bad witches or the man behind the curtain. That’s the kind of power I’d like to tap each day.

And I love sparkly shoes. And pig tails.

Dorothy it is.

Maybe someday I’ll grow up to be Glinda the Good Witch.

But not yet. I still have a lot of traveling to do.

You know what super heroes are extra good for? Helping you fake your balance when everything threatens to tip you right over. 

Also great for that, encouraging words from my latest book: Faking Balance: Adventures in Work and Life.


Books Make Great Gifts!

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Lela Davidson’s award-winning, best-selling essay collections. Short reads for busy moms who smile and smirk. Available in paperback and ebook on Amazon,
NookiTunes and other places books are sold.

 

Image: Lela Davidson

How To Handle Change in 3 Easy Steps

Handling change is a critical skill for anyone. If you’re alive, you’re handling change all the time. But some life circumstances throw change at us faster than others. How we deal with it can be the difference between freaking out and settling in.

When I returned to the world of those who work with other humans in close quarters toward common goals I resumed the practice of some skills and started cultivating others in new ways. In addition to attending meetings and being held accountable for revenue and expenses, I now have the privilege of helping several people grow careers that are fulfilling and meaningful. One of the strong women I work with recently asked me, within the context of her performance and our team’s changing focus, “How have you dealt with all the changes?”

We work in an extremely fast-paced web-based environment, where technology and market forces can conspire overnight to change fundamentals in our business. And we have a company culture of moving with the changes. It’s what we do. But my colleagues question caught me off guard. I can’t remember what I said at the time, and I wasn’t satisfied with my answer. I’ve been thinking about the question all week. How do I deal with change?

The truth is I have no idea, because I don’t know any other way but change.

Step 1: Freak Out

During a two month period in 2013 I went back to work full time, my husband changed jobs after 13 years at the same company, my daughter switched from her big public school to a small charter, and we moved to a new house (before selling the old house). It was all very exciting and terrifying. But it was also just the way of my world.

My first job out of college was in consulting. Nothing static about switching projects, managers, and clients every 6-12 weeks. Then I had two babies and mommy-tracked over to the tax department. Big city tax work was very dynamic. Not so much at a regional firm. So I left. Because I craved change. Next came years of freelance writing, editing, publishing, speaking, content strategy and social marketing consulting. Never the same day twice.

Still, all those changes a couple of years ago had me spinning. I didn’t handle it all very well. I got overwhelmed. I cried. I felt sorry for myself. My husband tells me this is all a very normal part of something called the J Curve. I called it freaking out.

Step 2: Relax and make a [new] plan 

I’ve been obsessed with the question of how to deal with change because I’m a sucker for systems. I LOVE my routines. It’s Sunday as I write this. I’ve stocked the refrigerator and pantry. I know more or less what our family will eat for dinner every day this week. I have 5 outfits hanging in my closet that I don’t have to think about (thank you, capsule wardrobe), and I’ve walked my dog and hit my yoga mat today because it’s part of my routine. I live by these routines. But I also live to change them. (That’s a huge part of my love for Arkansas, by the way, the fact that there are distinct seasons here, natural delineations for changes in routine.)

The only thing I love more than a routine is a new routine. The only thing better than a great spreadsheet is a new great spreadsheet.But for me, when things are in flux, my need for order asserts itself. No sooner has change descended than I have a 7-point plan. And maybe a flowchart. The new plan might not work for long, but that’s okay, because we’ll need a new one soon anyway.

Step 3: Let go and repeat

Here’s the trick: Make the plans. Map the process, but don’t get too attached. Because you know what they say about our puny human plans. God thinks they’re funny. Embrace routines. Court stability. Of course. But when change comes along, take a deep breath– and make a new spreadsheet.

So, how do you manage change? 


 

Got Books?Screen shot 2015-08-16 at 9.09.26 PM

Lela Davidson’s award-winning, best-selling essay collections. Short reads for busy moms who smile and smirk. Available on AmazonNookiTunes and every other place books are sold. But probably not at your neighbor’s garage sale.

 

6 Book Club Books for Working Moms

You’re a working mom and you’re in a book club. Time is precious. And while it’s super fun to get together with girlfriends and drink wine and eat snacks, and have opinions about books you may or may not have had time to read, there are only so many meetings in a row you can get away with not reading the book. (In my experience this is approximately 37% of the time, missing no more than two books in a row.)

When it’s your turn to select the book, take the opportunity choose one of these 6 ideal types of books for working moms to read in book club.

The Make-You-Better Book
Book club is recreation, but all the best working moms know how to multi-task. My book club read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project a few years ago and I guarantee we’ll be reading her new title, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives sooner than later. A great self-help book is a win-win for everyone mom in the room–working or not.

The Escape Book
All books take you somewhere, but some are better than others at immersing you in a world you’d never have the chance to experience. The 19th Wife, A Novel by David Ebershoff and The Other Bolyen Girl by Philippa Gregory are two of my favorites.

The Holy-Crap-How-Do-I-Get-It-All-Done? Book
Working moms are always juggling something, or spinning plates, or balancing on a tightrope. (Trust me, I’ve tried to come up with better metaphors, and when I do I guarantee there’s a book deal in it for me.) So when you’re wondering how others cope, check out Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte and Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood by Rebecca Gillespie and Hollee Temple.

The Depressing Thinker Book
What would you do in an impossible situation? Better to play our your choices in the page of a novel. Our book club really enjoyed The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. We didn’t agree on how we would have handled the situation. And arguing over wine about the decisions of fictional characters is some of the most fun a girl can have.

The Empowerment Book
Sometimes you just have to take on the world. But if you’re a working mom, time’s tight. If you have a fantasy (as I do) of taking a extended nature sabbatical, walk a few miles in Cheryl Strayed’s hiking boots by reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. It doesn’t disappoint, but it does spark very good conversations. And don’t forget that other Sheryl– Sandberg. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead is required reading for any working mother.

The Comedic Relief Book
I’ve written before about my favorite funny mom books for book clubsI Just Want to Pee Alone and You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth are anthologies by dozens of very funny ladies. But my very favorite new funny book that is the ideal book club read for working moms is, not surprisingly, Faking Balance: Adventures in Work and Life, which will be released in September!


 

Got Books?

Lela Davidson’s award-winning, best-selling essay collections. Short reads for busy moms who smile and smirk. Available on AmazonNookiTunes and every other place books are sold. But probably not at your neighbor’s garage sale.

 

 

What’s Your Super Power?

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If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be? This is the question I started asking myself in late December after clicking the kind of headline that sucks me in every time: The One Question All Successful People Can Answer Immediately. Who doesn’t click that? Don’t you want to be successful? Like, right now? Ever since I went back to work I’ve been devouring stories like this from The Muse, these promises to make me better after an easy 2-minute read. They usually deliver. Articles on The Muse and LinkedIn have helped me bridge the gap between yoga-panted freelancer and respectable business leader who works well with others and no longer refers to “decks” as “PowerPoints.”

According to the author of the superpower post, knowing your superpower provides focus and therefore competitive advantage. (I’m quite certain my powers are spreadsheets and sarcasm, thanks for asking.) I say knowing what you’re good at is important, but knowing your Kryptonite might be even more important. I, for example, am not the most relaxed person. Surprise! I might overreact here and there. The general tendency of my family to leave their dirty dishes in the sink when the dishwasher is right there are you kidding me? may have compelled me to shout obscenities through the house on more than one occasion.

This is not the best way to have a peaceful home.

Dirty dishes aside, maintaining calm in the face of chaos wins in business too. More than good ideas, more than strategy, more than flawless execution, maybe even more than luck–what separates successful people from those who consistently struggle, is the ability to keep calm. That’s not always easy, especially when your default mode is “Freak Out.”

So, if we get to pick, and we do, my superpower of choice is Calm. I’ll keep working on that. In the meantime, my spreadsheets will have to do.

What’s your superpower? What do you wish it were?